Media mentorships in Sudan boost referendum coverage

Experienced regional and international journalists conducted hands-on mentorships with Sudanese media houses prior to January referendum

IMS-sponsored media mentors fanned out across Sudan In early January 2011, to train more than 150 journalists and media workers on coverage of the then upcoming secession referendum. Over a three-week period, these mentors, experienced regional and international journalists, guided newsroom, management, layout and marketing divisions on a strategic approach for their referendum coverage.

According to a newly released assessment report, these mentorships succeeded in producing an international network of Sudanese and foreign journalists which is a starting point for continued partnerships in the country.

In-house training

Citizens of Southern Sudan were given the opportunity to vote for secession from the North in January 2011, due to a provision from a longstanding peace agreement between the two regions. IMS as part of the Sudan Media and Election Consortium (SMEC) launched a nationwide journalist mentorship programme to give media houses a clear sense of direction in their editorial choices and improve the quality of their output.

Claus Reinholdt , a journalist and reporter for the news department of TV 2 Denmark, brought his broadcast expertise to Liberty FM and Spirit FM, two radio stations in southern Sudan. He enlisted feedback from the media houses to structure his own in-depth mentorship plan.  

– We found out they wanted to hear about reporting on sensitive issues, how to conduct interviews, how to edit a news package with sound bites and interviews and write a script so actually it was quite hands-on training.

‘Eyeopener’ for Sudanese journalists

With the training provided by Claus Reinholdt and the other mentors, the Sudanese journalists gained new tools to monitor the referendum on the ground. Sudan offers very little in terms of journalism training, so many reporters rely on self-taught methods and experience.

As an example of this, Claus Reinholdt found that the journalists he mentored did not routinely practice conducting field interviews and talking to local people to broaden the scope of an article. Some described the mentorship experience as an ‘eyeopener.’ Additionally, he had to find a way around the lack of basic infrastructure as communications, Internet access and reporter’s equipment. Since his return to Denmark, he has gathered second-hand laptops and computers as well as radio-recording device and sent these items to the journalists working at Spirit FM, Liberty FM and Star FM.

Achievements and results

Many of the thirteen other mentors noted that journalistic output vastly improved during the mentorship. The report points to an improvement in the quality of stories, a more hands-on approach by media management, the introduction of daily editorial meetings, greater knowledge of radio journalism skills as a few examples of results and achievements made in the media houses.

IMS and the partners of SMEC, SUDIA, Norwegian People’s Aid, FOJO, Arab Working Group and Osservatorio  have long been involved in supporting the growth of Sudanese media with media monitoring, media personnel training and dialogue meetings between journalists and security personnel.